This is an incredibly tenuous time in the Middle East. The Assad regime is killing its own citizens in Syria, Hezbollah has tens of thousands of rockets aimed at Israel, ready to be launched on orders from its patron Iran. Iran is racing toward nuclear capability in defiance of the world. The Muslim Brotherhood is in power in Egypt. The Arab Spring has created great uncertainty rather than pacifying the region. The U.S. has finally brought most of its troops home from Iraq, but Iraq’s democracy is tenuous at best and Iran continues to pull many strings within its long-time rival.
All this uncertainty has made Israel all the more a target of regional derision. Without the Mubarak regime to pacify Egypt, and King Abullah of Jordan if Jordan facing increased pressure to reform (i.e. become radically Islamic), Israel is increasingly alone. However, we know that Israel will ultimately do whatever it feels it has to do in order to protect itself.
It is not surprising that Israel told the U.S. that it is not going to update the U.S. as to its actions and intention. This way, Israel is not in a position of having to ask permission, and it’s clear that the Obama administration is not seen as having given a green light if Israel does decide to launch a pre-emptive strike. We call this having your cake and eating it, too. Diplomacy demands that we cannot openly support Israel bombing Iran, yet we continue to hope they will solve the problem for us.
Israel could face major blowback if it launches an attack, including tens of thousands of Hezbollah rockets, terrorist cells activated against it by Iran, etc. However, the biggest obstacle may be how the rest of the world and the UN react. The UN is already anti-Israel, China and Russia will never turn against Iran unless it is actually foolish enough to pre-emptively nuke the U.S. or Israel, and Europe has long disliked Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians (not to mention the pressure many countries would face from their ever-growing Muslim underclass). The U.S. is really Israel’s only ally, but the Obama administration does not believe it needs to make that clear, in fact, in many ways this administration has distanced itself from Israel. But the fact remains the Israel could face an existential threat if Iran gets the bomb.
America supports Israel because it has long been a lone Western-style democracy in a region of the world that is characterized by despotic regimes that are unstable and don’t respect human rights. Even with the Iraq “experiment” we are left with only one real ally in Middle East.